Activists hold ‘honkathon’ to protest immigration detainee conditions amid coronavirus pandemic


HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– Activists gathered to protest immigration detainee conditions Thursday in Hartford. They say immigrants are being forced to stay in conditions that could be deadly breeding grounds for Covid-19.

As Covid-19 spreads rapidly across the country, activists across Connecticut held a so-called “honkathon” in front of ICE headquarters in Hartford, calling for immigrants to be released from detention centers, in particularly nearby in Bristol County, Massachusetts.

“We’re hoping that people be released from Bristol immediately. And we’re hoping that, we want ICE to shut down all raids and suspend everything that they’re doing regarding immigration immediately. People need to be staying home and staying safe and how are you expecting people to do that if they’re in overcrowded detention centers,” said Oliva Backal-Balik, Wesleyan Student Activist.

Activists are calling this a “safe protest.” They’re staying in their cars and honking their horns, and keeping social distance.

As healthcare workers across the U.S. plead for more personal protective equipment, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement requested thousands of n95 masks for agents in field offices.

Activists with New Haven-based “Unidad Latina en Accion” say they are outraged ICE hasn’t stopped raids and deportations amid the pandemic. They say conditions in detention centers are breeding grounds for Covid-19.

“Being in a place where they’re holding like 50 people in a single room, that’s not the safest situation to be in, especially when they are asking people to keep the social distance,” said John Lugo, Director, Unidad Latina en Accion.

“People aren’t being given access to hand sanitizer, soaps. There are guards coming in from outside who they know have been coming in with symptoms of Covid-19,” said Backal-Balik.

Thursday’s protest falls on the same day as a hearing for a class action lawsuit that Yale Law School attorneys helped work on concerning the release of immigrants during the coronavirus pandemic.

Activists say immigrants are being held who are not a threat to society. They hope the virus will force the federal government to change course.

“They’re going to be forced to do something,” said Lugo.

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